Wednesday Audience of Pope Francis: Jesus is close to us in our weakness.

It is such a beautiful thing to contemplate: that God is closest to us in our weakness…in our sinfulness.  I feel like a broken record but Romans 5:8 has been so important to me in the last three years of my Christian journey: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Pope Francis hits it home with his Wednesday Audience.  Read it all.

Some gems:

“Jesus’ first public act is therefore participation in a choral prayer of the people, a prayer of the people who went to be baptised, a penitential prayer, in which everyone recognises him- or herself as a sinner…We never pray alone, we always pray with Jesus. He does not stay on the opposite side of the river – “I am righteous, you are sinners” – to mark His difference and distance from the disobedient people, but rather He immerses His feet in the same purifying waters. He acts as if He were a sinner.”

Jesus’ baptism was His first public death-to-self.  He leads us to the Father in every action, even Baptism.

“This is the unique greatness of Jesus’ prayer: the Holy Spirit takes possession of His person and the voice of the Father attests that He is the beloved, the Son in whom He fully reflects Himself.”

In the same way, we who are in Christ through Baptism share in His sonship.  We, too, are the beloved of the Father!

“Jesus did not descend into the waters of the Jordan for Himself, but for all of us. It was the entire people of God who went to the Jordan to pray, to ask for forgiveness, to receive that baptism of penance…Jesus gave us His own prayer, which is His loving dialogue with the Father. He gave it to us like a seed of the Trinity, which He wants to take root in our hearts. Let us welcome him! Let us welcome this gift, the gift of prayer. Always with Him. And we will not err.”

 

Lord, give us eyes to see and ears to hear! Amen.

 

Pope Francis: Adore the Lord

Yesterday during the Sunday Angelus, as Pope Francis taught on the principle commandment of the Divine Law, (“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind”), he says that prayer in Adoration is the best way to express our personal love for God.  We are already pretty good at offering thanks and interceding, but adoration sometimes takes a back seat.

Why would he emphasize this?

I think the Holy Father is trying to convey two things:

1) Adoration alone gives God His due worship, and adoration is for the sake of loving.  When we approach the Lord in faith for the purpose of loving Him a new dimension is added to our prayers of blessing, thanksgiving, praise, and supplication. “Adoration is the first attitude of man acknowledging that he is a creature before his Creator…Adoration of the thrice-holy and sovereign God of love blends with humility and gives assurance to our supplications” (CCC 2628). An analogy can be made in terms of time and space: a picture drawn on a piece of paper provides a two dimensional representation.  A third dimension is added in a sculpture with clay.  In essence, adoration adds depth to our prayer; we are loving God for the sake of loving Him.

2) To add even another dimension there is another commandment: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”. This would be like adding movement (change in time) to our picture or clay model. Love of neighbor consists in closeness, in caring, in sharing — a going out of oneself. Love of neighbor requires a listening heart, and a willingness to spend time with others.  The Holy Father challenges us about how we spend our time: are we looking at our watches (or our phones) when we should be listening to others? (I am guilty). Further, do we care so much about the time when we are gossiping or criticizing?  

This is not love!  Not of our neighbor, nor of ourselves.

Lord, convert my heart.  May I be teachable.

Our neighbor is an image of God.  We can adore the presence of God who lives in our neighbor by our attention, closeness, and prayer. The Holy Father reminds us that the wellspring of love is God himself. We are called to be in communion with His love in every moment, adoring His presence within us through loving our neighbor, in whom He is also present. “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (Jn 14:23).

The Pope tells us that Jesus’ divine mercy calls us to begin anew each day! 

Lord, make it so.

“Be Not Afraid”

As I walked into Church this morning I almost ran into a tree. You heard that right. I was looking down at my phone (really, to pause the prayer I was listening to, honest!) and next thing I know, I realize that one more step, and a tree will be in my face.

Thank you, distractions. Thank you, tree. This may seem ridiculous to thank my distractions and the tree but bear with me.

crucifixion-salvador-dali.jpgI walked into the narthex, and not only were my glasses fogged up (because of my face mask), but the sun was shining brightly through one of the far windows, blinding me. “Sit where the sun is not in my eyes,” I told myself as I walked into the nave. I could barely see where I was going, but I found a spot to sit down and begin writing in my journal. I invited Jesus into all of me for Mass — all of my thoughts, even the darkest ones.

Does that seem strange, to invite Jesus into the darkness?

Mass began and I stood up. The blinding sunlight was coming through the window, right into my eyes again as I stood. “It will be gone when I sit down for the readings,” I thought.

The first reading was from Ephesians. I love Ephesians. Just a note to the reader, if you read the daily Mass readings everyday we will be going through most of Ephesians for the next two weeks. Today this struck me: “You…were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory” (Eph 1:13-14). Our being sealed in the Holy Spirit is only the first installment. “There is so much more to come!” I thought. We are His possession, His sons and daughters. Our inheritance is His gentle care, His love, His tenderness.

The psalm verse “Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own” fits right into this.

Blessed the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
From heaven the Lord looks down;
he sees all mankind (Ps 33:12-13).

God is in charge. We are His people. He gives us everything.

We stood up for the Gospel and I was blinded by the light again. I tried moving to my right. The light was still in my eyes. I decided to just close them and listen to the Word.

“There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops. I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body but after that can do no more. I shall show you whom to fear. Be afraid of the one who after killing has the power to cast into Gehenna; yes, I tell you, be afraid of that one. Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins? Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God. Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows (Lk 12:2-7).”

I sat down for the homily. “Every cell of our body is known by the Lord,” the priest said. “Bring everything into the light.”

I laughed at myself. “I can’t hide from you, can I, Jesus?” I thought of the bright sunlight through the Church window that seemed to be chasing me and blinding me.

I remembered what I wrote in my journal at the beginning of Mass. “I invite You into all of me, all of my thoughts, even the darkest ones.”

Jesus wants to be there to heal! He wants to be in every part of us. We can think of every cell, but is that all? A cell is a material thing. What about the spiritual “parts” of us? Our memories, our thoughts, our intellectual ponderings.

Our feelings. Even the darkest ones. He wants to be there, too.

His light may feel too bright. It may burn at first, but the burning is purifying.

What do we know about Him?

Look at the crucifix. Do not be afraid. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).

While we were still sinners? He chases us down. His light shines in the darkness. He wants to be in everything — in the distractions, in the falls. He is not afraid of our sins, even the darkest ones. He felt all of them in His death, and in the moment of His last breath, He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Having been sealed in the Spirit was only the beginning. We now live the redemption and claim our inheritance in and through Christ and His loving sacrifice. There is nothing we can give Him that He cannot make new, even our darkest sins. Because we were created “very good” God can bring good purpose to all! Even the distractions. Even the bumps in the road. Even the trees we may run into! Our inheritance is His gentle care, His love, His tenderness.

Be not afraid.

St. Augustine and Early Western Spirituality

Early Western spirituality developed with St. Ambrose who paved the way for the Doctor of Grace, St. Augustine.  A religious cultural challenge of the age was the continued development of heresies in the Church: Arian, Pelagian, Manichean, and Donatist.  Arguably the strict asceticism of the East contributed to these heresies, given that there was not yet a tradition of spiritual guidance. The Churches in both the East and the West were young, and the great tradition of spiritual theory and practice was yet to be formed in history.  For example, St. Jerome, while traveling through Gaul around 366, became acquainted with the practices of Eastern monasticism, and “began his own undertaking of this way of life in various experimental forms”  (Christian Spirituality: An Introduction to the Heritage, Charles Healey, 68, my emphasis).  As the Church developed doctrinally and spiritually, the importance of guidance from others in terms of spiritual fatherhood and motherhood was increasing.  The writings of Ambrose and Jerome, followed by the “mixed life of action and contemplation” (Healey, 77) of Augustine, paved the way for a new monasticism in which pastoral service was connected with the monastic life.  St. Benedict, the “Father of Western Monasticism” (Healey, 89), devised a Rule of Life in which personal sanctification was sought through living the Christian life in a community rather than a hermitage. These are the beginnings of “Contemplation in Action,” that we see in more modern spiritual masters through the Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites, and Jesuits (just to name a few).

By the time of Augustine around 384, St. Ambrose’s writings had transmitted much of Greek thought to the West (Healey, 66).  Ambrose was preoccupied with the Arian heresy, (that Jesus was not both human and divine), and through his method of preaching he kindled a passion for philosophy in Augustine that eventually led to his rejection of Manichæism (that evil is a created entity), and his baptism by Ambrose in 387.  It was a coming to God through reason that kindled the fire in Augustine’s heart.  He not only discerned who God was through reason, but His essence of goodness.  “For in no way can corruption affect our God, neither by will, nor by necessity, nor by chance, since He Himself is God and what He wills is good, and He himself is goodness; but to be corrupted is not good.”  It was an agony for Augustine to determine the origin of evil.  Once he came upon the truth that evil is a corrupted good he realized that he himself was created good and that it was his corruption that kept him from knowing the true good, Who is God.   Augustine, with the light of truth and the eyes of faith was able to see how God was his helper, and through the “secret hand of [God’s] healing,” Augustine’s darkened intellect “gained strength by the stinging ointment of wholesome sorrow”.  Augustine also realized that seeing truth and the power to see truth were a grace that he had received from this “Beauty so ancient and so new,” his poetic term for God.

Truly, reading Augustine leaves me breathless.  I, too, am held by, in his words, the “iron bondage of my own will.”  Indeed, I am a slave to bad habits as he was.  As Augustine says, “I was still tied down to earth and refused to accept service in your army.  I was as much afraid of being freed from what hindered my going to you as I should have feared whatever might hinder this.”  I, too, hear the muttering of vanities, when the Spirit says to me, as Continence told Augustine, “Cast yourself upon Him, do not be afraid; He will not withdraw and let you fall; cast yourself fearlessly upon Him.” 

I pray for fortitude and I continue to “work out my salvation with fear and trembling” (cf. Phil 2:12) with the help of prayer, Scripture, and the Sacraments.

In a similar way to Augustine, I believe that helping people to come to the truth about the one true God through reason is necessary.  In the dualism of our culture it seems that either there is nothing spiritual at all, or the spiritual is viewed some kind of “energy” flowing through the world and our bodies that is not attached to the one true God.  It is important to come to an agreement about first principles dealing with God’s essence.  If one believes in God, he may believe Him to be someone who “does things” or “doesn’t do things,” rather than who He is — His essence of Goodness, Truth, Beauty, and Love.  This error trickles down to how one thinks about the human person.  It is important to begin with the truth of God – that He exists, that He is all good, that He is love, and that we are created in His image and likeness.

(Nota bene, this article is a modified version of something I wrote for a spirituality class about five years ago. I urge all readers to read The Confessions of St. Augustine. You won’t be sorry)!

Baptism is about Belonging

Baptism is not just a magical formula. It is not about words that mean different things to different people. Especially today we fight about particular words and their meaning: fatherhood, motherhood, marriage…are just a few. Getting their meaning right is important for communication. I mean, who would tell you that black is white?

Since the time of Christ, since the time when He actually spoke the words written in Matthew 28:19-20 [“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”] and John 14, the words of Baptism have been So Important.

(I paraphrase): “Go out and unleash the Good News of what God has done for you! Go to all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. You are my disciples. You now speak for me. You will do greater things than I have done! I and the Father are One. I will send the Holy Spirit, and we will dwell in you. Through the Holy Spirit, you are in ME and I in YOU, and we will dwell together, in LOVE, for eternity.

Jesus didn’t use these exact words. I have condensed two Gospel passages.

But the above is what I believe that He meant. And this meaning is exactly why Baptism, as the Rite of Initiation into the family of God, is so important. Jesus gave us the words. Peter elaborates in Acts 2:38, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Again, Jesus gave us the words, and now Peter gives us the person, in Whose name, they are spoken. To do anything in Jesus’ name is to make that thing happen.

Once we are baptized, we belong to God, and the words Jesus spoke to His disciples in John 14 are realized.

These words, among others, are spoken in the Catholic Rite of Baptism:

“[Name of person], the Christian community welcomes you with great joy. In its name I claim you for Christ our Savior by the sign of his cross. I now trace the cross on your forehead, and invite your parents (and godparents) to do the same. (Priest, parents, Godparents mark a cross on child’s forehead).

“[Name of person], I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” (Priest thrice pours water over person’s head).

When the priest says “I baptize you;” when anyone says “I baptize you,” with proper Trinitarian form and matter (water), the person is baptized. The newly baptized belongs to the the family of God. The Holy Spirit dwells within the person, and the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity (the life of the eternal God) are infused. All sins are forgiven, including Original Sin. The virtues, a free gift from God through this rite of baptism, will carry this person through earthly life to earthly death, and to eternal life with the Father.

This is the eternal now. Once it happens it is done for eternity. Persons are claimed for Christ. They belong.

Because God is so good, because God is so loving…He can and does work outside this Sacrament. He doesn’t need it. But we do, so that we know.

Baptism gives us the right to say, “Lord, I claim you as my FATHER.”

Baptism gives us the right to say, “Jesus, I claim you as my SAVIOR.”

We Belong!

The Spirit of Truth actually lives within us, and propels us back to Abba, no matter what we have done!  Who can forget the story of the Prodigal Son?  We often do not even consider the Father’s love; we concentrate on the son or his brother.  The Father’s love was so unconditional, the son knew he belonged, and he returned. The faith of our parents, the faith of our friends -whoever brings us to baptism – has been enough to bring us, too, into the bosom of the Father for eternity.  Who can forget the story of the paralytic, whose four friends brought him to Jesus? “And when he saw their faith, he said, ‘Man, your sins are forgiven you’” (Luke 5:20, my emphasis).

Again, because God is so good, so loving, He still calls us in our hearts back to him. Even when we haven’t been baptized, or even if the words weren’t right, He is still calling us to himself, through Baptism. He calls us to take the plunge!

This is why we Christians remind ourselves of our Baptism with Holy Water. “I claim you for Christ” now becomes our own, “Father, I claim you as my daddy!”

Many who are reading this understand that I am writing in response to the pastoral crisis in the Archdiocese of Detroit that has come about because the correct formula was not used for Baptism for many, many people. There are parents who are devastated at this news. Many have sons and daughters who now do not go to Church. For such a time is this… let us go to St. Monica and to St. Augustine to intercede for us — for all of the sons and daughters affected by this; all of the mothers and fathers — Lord, bring us back to YOU. Call us by name in our hearts. Give us the grace to return to YOU.

Amen

Please see the links for St. Monica and St. Augustine — Their feast days are Thursday and Friday of this week — August 27 and 28.

Novena to Blessed Solanus Casey-Day 9

Day 9 — Feast of Blessed Solanus — The Potter and the Clay

Throughout this Novena we have learned about the lives of the many saints whose feasts led up to this day, as well as the faith and holiness of Fr. Solanus Casey.  Today let us consider these themes together in the light of the first reading.  The themes from the past 8 days:

  • Recognizing Jesus in others;
  • The blessings of marriage and family-life;
  • Conversion of heart leading to unity, peace, and joy;
  • Suffering well with Jesus; giving our trials in every moment;
  • Living in gratitude and thanking God ahead of time;
  • Noticing little blessings that grow our lives in Christ;
  • Simple faith that encourages others;
  • Giving hospitality to others and listening to Jesus in them.

All of these themes were manifest in the life of Blessed Solanus.  He was like the potter in the first reading today, and he allowed the grace of Jesus Christ to flow through his actions and words into other people. 

“This word came to Jeremiah from the LORD: Rise up, be off to the potter’s house; there I will give you my message. I went down to the potter’s house and there he was, working at the wheel. Whenever the object of clay which he was making turned out badly in his hand, he tried again, making of the clay another object of whatever sort he pleased. Then the word of the LORD came to me: Can I not do to you, house of Israel, as this potter has done? says the LORD. Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, house of Israel” (Jer 18:1-6).

Fr. Solanus did the work of God day-by-day, greeting people, feeding them, listening to them, and interceding for them.  Were all his prayers answered right away?  No, but God, the true Potter, continued to work the clay to form it according to His will.  This is how prayer works.  Saint Paul says “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). God will take every part of our lives and make it into something good. There is nothing that He cannot use for our good.

We are the clay, but we can also be the potter!  The families that we grow up in are the trinitarian image of God’s love that continually form us, pick us up when things are going badly, and start anew.  The saints we meet in our everyday lives are God’s forming hands that encourage us and pray for us.  (Blessed are we to have even one of these saints of God in our lives!).  Just as God showed Jeremiah what He can do through the example of a potter, God shows us what He can do through everyday saints like Blessed Solanus.  We are called to be imitators!

Today, on his feast day, let us ask Blessed Solanus to intercede for our Church, that we will be the image of the most loving and merciful Jesus to our families and to our world.  Let us pray that as the potter, in the image of the divine Potter, we will be patient and gentle;  and that as the clay we will receive with joy and gratitude the blessings the Potter gives.  Amen.  Alleluia!

Prayer for the Canonization of Father Solanus Casey

O God, I adore You.  I give myself to You.

May I be the person You want me to be,

and may Your will be done in my life today.

I thank You for the gifts You gave Father Solanus.

If it is Your will, bless us with the Canonization of

Father Solanus so that others may imitate

and carry on his love for all the poor and suffering of our world.

As he joyfully accepted Your divine plans,

I ask You, according to Your will,

to hear my prayer for…(your intention)

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

“Blessed be God in all His designs.”

Novena to Blessed Solanus Casey-Day 7

Day 7 — Blessed Maria Teresa Kowalska, Capuchin Poor Clare martyred by Nazis in Polish (see comment) a concentration camp in German-occupied Poland, 1941: we are invited to open wide the doors of our hearts to welcome in and appreciate brothers/sisters of different races, religions, cultures.

“We wait for peace, to no avail; for a time of healing, but terror comes instead. We recognize, O LORD, our wickedness, the guilt of our fathers; that we have sinned against you. For your name’s sake spurn us not, disgrace not the throne of your glory; remember your covenant with us, and break it not” (Jer 14:19c-21).

Today we receive a harsh-sounding word from the prophet Jeremiah.  It is spoken as calamity comes upon Judah.  Jeremiah had warned them that the consequences of their injustice, their false worship, and their indifference to the blessings of God would be very grave.  Seeing this in the light of the Gospel for today: the seeds that God had sown in Judah had not been cared for, and the weeds were taking over.  Jeremiah was living in the midst of this tribulation and he offered, on behalf of his people, a prayer of repentance; a prayer for mercy.

Blessed Maria Teresa Kowalska (b. 1902) did the same as she suffered and died from sickness in a Nazi concentration camp in Dzialdowo, Poland.  She endured the calamity of the Nazi invasion of Poland with grace. As a young girl she lived a “pious and exemplary life,” receiving full initiation into the Catholic faith at the age of eighteen.  On the contrary, her father was a devout atheist.  Moved by his socialist ideals, he decided to emigrate with the family to the Soviet Union in 1922. Maria Teresa, on the other hand, entered a Poor Clare Monastery in Poland.  Her diary tells stories of her choosing “the difficult, enclosed life of the Capuchin Poor Clares in order to serve God and to offer herself in expiation for the sins of her family that had allied itself with communism.” After many years in the monastery, on 2 April 1941, she and 35 nuns were take to Dzialdowo. She died there on 25 July 1941. Sister Maria Teresa Kowalska offered her life for the sins of her family, and for the grace of release for her Sisters in the concentration camp.  God heard her prayers.  The Sisters were released on 7 August, 1941.

The great faith and confidence in the Lord of Blessed Solanus also won countless answers to prayer.  While Maria Teresa’s personal suffering reaped the graces of freedom for her sisters, the mission of Blessed Solanus was to accompany others in their suffering, truly living the exhortation of St. Paul to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:8). Fr. Solanus would accompany people in their darkest situations. His prayers bore the fruit of radical conversions, miraculous healings, and countless favors from God. Through his charism of intercessory prayer and his expectant faith that would always “thank God ahead of time,” God planted new seeds of faith into His suffering faithful.

Today let us pray for the charisms of intercessory prayer and encouragement, that through simple faith we as individuals and communities can open the doors of our hearts to the suffering of others, especially those who are from different races and cultures.

Prayer for the Canonization of Father Solanus Casey

O God, I adore You.  I give myself to You.

May I be the person You want me to be,

and may Your will be done in my life today.

I thank You for the gifts You gave Father Solanus.

If it is Your will, bless us with the Canonization of

Father Solanus so that others may imitate

and carry on his love for all the poor and suffering of our world.

As he joyfully accepted Your divine plans,

I ask You, according to Your will,

to hear my prayer for…(your intention)

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

“Blessed be God in all His designs.”

Novena to Blessed Solanus Casey-Day 6

Day 6 —  July 27, 2020 — Blessed Mary Magdalene Martinengo (Capuchin Poor Clare) She invites us to open the door of our heart to discover God’s presence in the midst of our ordinary, unspectacular lives.

Jesus proposed a parable to the crowds. “The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches’” (Mt 13:31-32).

It may seem like the thoughts we think or the things we do at any particular moment don’t mean very much.  Jesus tells us differently.  The smallest of the seeds grows into a giant bush and supports the livelihood of the birds of the sky.  The Lord said to us in the Sunday readings not so long ago, that the word “that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Is 55:11).  The seeds of the Word of God within us will bloom into holy lives that love and nurture our neighbor, building His Kingdom through us.

Blessed Mary Magdalene Martinengo was an example of this phenomenon of God’s simple Word bearing fruit one hundred fold.  She was a Capuchin nun with great mystical gifts founded in her total availability to the will of God in serving others.  One scholar claimed that she “became dish-washer, kitchen hand, porter, gardener, baker, sweeper, wardrobe keeper, laundress, wool weaver, shoe maker, cellarer, seamstress, chancellor or secretary, embroiderer, sacristy assistant, and without ever having the task of nurse, she nevertheless spontaneously undertook the lowliest and most burdensome of services.”  What may seem like a monotonous life bloomed into beatification by Pope Leo XIII in 1900.

Blessed Solanus Casey lived with a similar simplicity.  He struggled with his studies and was ordained as a “priest simplex,” and therefore did not have the faculties to hear confessions or to preach.  His humble response to this disappointment was to give one of the greatest gifts to others that one can give — a listening ear.  His ministry of mercy was nourished by a deep love for Jesus, which he shared with everyone he met, and in every moment.

Today let us pray to notice the little blessings and to be grateful for them, knowing that they are building our lives in Christ.

Prayer for the Canonization of Father Solanus Casey

O God, I adore You.  I give myself to You.

May I be the person You want me to be,

and may Your will be done in my life today.

I thank You for the gifts You gave Father Solanus.

If it is Your will, bless us with the Canonization of

Father Solanus so that others may imitate

and carry on his love for all the poor and suffering of our world.

As he joyfully accepted Your divine plans,

I ask You, according to Your will,

to hear my prayer for…(your intention)

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

“Blessed be God in all His designs.”

Novena to Blessed Solanus Casey

Day 2 — The Memorial of Saint Brigid of Sweden: we are invited to open the doors of our hearts (especially during times of upheaval and uncertainty) to the holiness of marriage and family life.

“How precious is your mercy, O God! The children of men take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They have their fill of the prime gifts of your house; from your delightful stream you give them to drink” (Ps 36:2-3).

The family is the fundamental unit of society and is a refuge for children “in the shadow of [the Lord’s] wings.”  There is no societal institution that can support, nurture, and educate children like one in which the mother and the father are unified through marriage, and live in harmony. In the Gospel today Jesus speaks of “knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven” that is freely given to His disciples.  The family is the first school of discipleship.  Indeed, family life provides the “prime gifts” of which the psalm speaks, and in which the material and spiritual needs of persons are best met.  The family is meant to image the Blessed Trinity in its love and unity, and be God’s light of truth to the world.

St. Bridget of Sweden (c. 1303-1373), whose memorial we celebrate today, lived her married life serving as lady-in-waiting to the queen in the court of the Swedish king Magnus II. She was the mother of eight children.  She received mystical visions that compelled her to serve the sick, often with her children in tow.  She did her best to be a holy influence on the king and his court, eventually encouraging him to give her not only what she needed to care for the poor and sick, but also to found a monastery for men and women.  She is a true example of a disciple, formed and nurtured through family life, who then brought the healing love of Jesus to the world.

Blessed Solanus was formed and nurtured as a disciple in the domestic Church as the sixth of 16 children born to Irish immigrant parents in Big River, Wisconsin.  He had nine brothers and six sisters!  Fr. Solanus once recalled his father’s exhortation to him and his brothers, “Prayer, boys, prayer!”  His mother taught him to pray the Rosary, and this became his favorite daily devotion. Several of his siblings also entered religious life.  The Casey household was a school of divine love, and was a springboard that propelled Solanus to continually live in the presence of God and serve as a powerful witness of Jesus’ love for all.

Today let us pray for a renewal of marriage and family life, and for all those who are suffering difficulties in their marriages and families — that God’s healing love is poured out upon them in abundance!

Prayer for the Canonization of Father Solanus Casey

O God, I adore You.  I give myself to You.

May I be the person You want me to be,

and may Your will be done in my life today.

I thank You for the gifts You gave Father Solanus.

If it is Your will, bless us with the Canonization of

Father Solanus so that others may imitate

and carry on his love for all the poor and suffering of our world.

As he joyfully accepted Your divine plans,

I ask You, according to Your will,

to hear my prayer for…(your intention)

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

“Blessed be God in all His designs.”

Novena to Blessed Solanus Casey

Day 7 — Blessed Maria Teresa Kowalska, Capuchin Poor Clare martyred by Nazis in Polish (see comment) a concentration camp in German-occupied Poland, 1941: we are invited to open wide the doors of our hearts to welcome in and appreciate brothers/sisters of different races, religions, cultures.

“I will rise then and go about the city;

in the streets and crossings I will seek

Him whom my heart loves” (Sgs 3:2).

The readings for Mass on today’s special feast begin with the love poem from the Song of Songs, in which the beloved is sought and finally found.  The Psalm chant is the beautiful morning prayer, “My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God” (Ps 63:2). We then hear the story in the Gospel when Mary Magdalene is searching for her Lord in the tomb (Jn 20:1-2, 11-18).

She who stayed with him in death was given the grace of first seeing Him alive again!  The scene is a sign of the intimacy between a shepherd and his sheep that Jesus describes earlier in John, “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (Jn 10:3b).  It is when Jesus calls Mary by name that she instantly recognizes him.  St. Gregory the Great reflected: “Jesus is not recognized when he calls her “woman”; so he calls her by name, as though he were saying: Recognize me as I recognize you; for I do not know you as I know others; I know you as yourself.

A person’s name is not just a word.  It is by virtue of our name that we are known by others at the very beginnings of relationship.  For Christians, it is by our name that we are baptized and by which we are welcomed into the heavenly realm (cf. Rev 3:5).  Fr. Solanus Casey exemplified this truth as the Porter for the Capuchin Friary of St. Bonaventure in Detroit.  All who visited were known by name and welcomed.  He was a channel of God’s love through person-to-person engagement. He opened the door of his heart to God’s people and listened to them, having “ears to hear” their concerns.  He helped all encounter Christ — to know that He loved them, had a plan for them, and that faith in God would set them free.  Like the Good Shepherd, he turned away no-one who was seeking, and he joyfully delivered the Good News of God’s saving and healing power.

We ask Fr. Solanus to intercede for us as we pray for the gift of knowing others in Christ — that we may recognize Jesus in all whom we encounter, and that they may know Him through us.

Prayer for the Canonization of Father Solanus Casey

O God, I adore You.  I give myself to You.

May I be the person You want me to be,

and may Your will be done in my life today.

I thank You for the gifts You gave Father Solanus.

If it is Your will, bless us with the Canonization of

Father Solanus so that others may imitate

and carry on his love for all the poor and suffering of our world.

As he joyfully accepted Your divine plans,

I ask You, according to Your will,

to hear my prayer for…(your intention)

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

“Blessed be God in all His designs.”

Other Sources:

https://aod.app.box.com/s/m5y6spldy9kwtiynso10ui6nllwh0sk8/file/227166033053

https://aod.app.box.com/s/fu7m7jpkezoee89rgiurx24rvi2049gw/file/227291626368

https://aod.app.box.com/s/oqmt2w78ik8gg7ymm16g3677qck3a564/file/227166157286